Thursday, October 13, 2011

Apple Challah

My favorite bread in the whole world is challah. I make it all the time and turn the dough into dinner rolls, sandwich buns, whole loaves, cinnamon buns, or orange rolls. This apple version of challah was another welcome variation. It is not overly sweet and really showcases the complimentary flavors of honey and apples. We enjoyed a good portion of this for breakfast. It was not sweet enough for Paul's taste, so he added a cider glaze to his piece. I personally enjoyed it slightly warmed with a tablespoon of orange marmalade.

The process is incredibly easy albeit a bit messy. Matthew enjoyed watching it bake, but picked all the apples out of his piece when eating it. To him, apples have no place in challah.

Honey Apple Challah
adapted from King Arthur Flour

For the challah dough:
1/2 cup lukewarm water
6 tablespoons vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
2 large eggs
4 cups flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
1 tablespoon instant yeast

For the apple filling:
2 large apples, peeled, cored and diced into chunks
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 cup granulated sugar

For the glaze:
1 large egg, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
Sugar in the Raw for sprinkling (or just some more granulated sugar - but coarse sugar is pretty!)

In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine all the dough ingredients and mix with the dough hook attachment until you have a soft, smooth dough. This will probably take about 10 minutes. You may need to gradually add a little more flour if the dough continues to stick to the bottom of the bowl.

With a floured hand, remove the dough from the mixing bowl and gently knead into a ball. Place in a large, greased bowl, and turn once to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk. This will take approximately 2-2 1/2 hours.

Lightly grease a 9 or 10-inch springform pan or a 9-inch cake pan that has sides at least 2" tall.

Combine all the filling ingredients in a bowl and toss to coat evenly with the cinnamon and the sugar.

When the dough has risen, gently deflate and pat into a 8" x 10" rectangle. Spread half of the apple chunks down the center of the rectangle. Gently fold the left side of the dough over the apples and press firmly along all edges to seal the dough. Spread the remaining apple chunks over the folded-over dough. Take the right side of the dough and fold it over the apple chunks, pressing firmly on all ends to seal. With a large, sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 uniform-size pieces. This will be unnervingly messy and feel like a war zone. Apple chunks will fly, juices will squirt, dough will appear melty, but do not stress! Lay the dough chunks in the greased pan, trying your best to keep it in a single layer. This will be a tight squeeze. Arrange any stray apple pieces over the top. Cover and let rise in a warm place until the dough appears puffy and has risen a generous 2" high, about 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 325 degrees and set an oven rack in the lower third of the oven.

Whisk together the egg and water. When the dough has risen, brush the top with the glaze and sprinkle with the sugar. At this point, if you are using a springform pan, wrap the bottom of the pan in foil to prevent juice leakage. I wrapped my pan and placed it on a baking sheet (and I'm glad I did!).

Bake at 325 degrees for 50-55 minutes or until the top is browned and the internal temperature of the bread reads 190 degrees. Some of the higher-rising pieces may char a bit, but those pieces taste especially delicious! Remove from the oven and let the bread rest in the pan 5 minutes before loosening the sides. Serve hot, warm, or at room temperature!

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